Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, March 9, 2018, 4:05 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Reporter There has been a decision to hold a U.S.-North Korea summit meeting by May. Please give the Government’s reaction to this.
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Regarding the situation of North Korea, at the Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk this morning, President Trump explained that Mr. Chung Eui-Yong, National Security Adviser of the Republic of Korea (ROK), who is visiting the United States, stated that Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea said he is committed to denuclearization and expressed his eagerness to have dialogue with President Trump. President Trump explained that this movement by North Korea is the result of maximum pressure including the severe sanctions through now and U.S. military force. Furthermore, President Trump explained that there would be preparations for the meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un while monitoring the situation going forward. Japan would like to express its respect for the efforts of the ROK Government to reach this stage. This movement by North Korea is the result of the maximum pressure implemented through close Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. At the same time, we will naturally continue the maximum pressure until North Korea has realized abandonment of all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner. There was also a statement from President Trump that sanctions and military pressure would be continued, and National Security Advisor Chung also emphasized in the same manner that pressure would continue until North Korea has realized denuclearization accompanied by concrete actions. In addition, in order to continue close cooperation with the ROK, Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the ROK, will visit Japan next week on March 12 and 13 (Monday and Tuesday), and would like to conduct an information exchange with me. I would like to have an in-depth information exchange on the ROK’s recent special envoy delegation to North Korea and its exchange with North Korea, as well as the response going forward. While maintaining close cooperation with the international community centered on Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, the Government of Japan will firmly work for the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues as well as the abductions issue.
Reporter: Are there no doubts about proceeding to dialogue while there have been no clear and concrete actions for this commitment toward denuclearization?
Minister Kono: There will be no change in terms of maintaining economic sanctions and military pressure. North Korea will gain nothing until it stops violating various international rules, including United Nations Security Council Resolutions on nuclear tests and missile launches.
Reporter: What kind of specific information do you want to hear from National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon?
Minister Kono: I would like to have an information exchange on the ROK’s exchange with the North Korean side, as well as the response going forward.
Reporter: There are reports that a Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held on March 16. Can you please explain the facts of the matter and what kind of discussion you would like to have if the meeting is held?
Minister Kono: Those reports are not correct. Nothing has been decided.
Reporter: Although you say the reports are not correct, can you please explain if you intend to visit the United States and if you would like to hold a Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided.
Reporter: At the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting earlier, it was stated that anyone can just say one is committed to denuclearization. Defense Minister Onodera emphasized concrete actions, but on the other hand Prime Minister Abe stated at a press conference that the fact that North Korea made its request while placing denuclearization as a prerequisite is something to value, so I believe there is a slight discrepancy between the two statements.
Minister Kono: Prime Minister Abe valued that the request by North Korea, which has never exhibited such behavior until now, shows the influence of sanctions and is connected with concrete actions toward denuclearization. That is what he meant.
Reporter: At the time of the Six Party Talks, North Korea also claimed it would abandon its nuclear program but this was scrapped. Isn’t it a misguided message to value just a declaration of intention?
Minister Kono: In line with what I have been stating daily, North Korea will gain nothing with just a statement of intention. Anyone can say he is committed to denuclearization. The important point is taking concrete action for this. North Korea never exhibited this behavior before sanctions were firmly implemented. The fact that North Korea, which has defied various international laws and rules to conduct nuclear tests and missile launches, has stated that at least it is committed to denuclearization is a major indication of the efficacy of these sanctions, and North Korea accepts this. In that sense, this can be valued as a step forward by North Korea.
Reporter: Are there any concerns that North Korea is attempting deception again?
Minister Kono: Economic sanctions and military pressure will not be eased until North Korea takes concrete action, so even if North Korea were to be attempting deception it would gain nothing.
Reporter: For example, what kinds of concrete actions are being envisioned?
Minister Kono: I will refrain from revealing the Government’s intentions.
Reporter: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura stated on a television program yesterday that until North Korea takes concrete action, the Government of Japan will not only not relieve sanctions but also not participate in discussion about full-fledged-dialogue itself. This appears to show a change in attitude.
Minister Kono: Because the top leader of North Korea’s government stated his commitment toward denuclearization, we must convey a message that they need to take concrete action for that. In addition to firmly conveying this, the entire international community must firmly ascertain whether North Korea is conducting denuclearization in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner as I have stated.
Reporter: For that kind of confirmation and for discussion of the abductions issue, do you think that there is a need for the leaders of Japan and North Korea to also directly meet?
Minister Kono: At this moment, the United States and North Korea will discuss those kinds of conditions.
Reporter: I think that the concrete actions will actually be agreed upon at the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, so how will Japan seek to influence the United States or the ROK for this?
Minister Kono: Japan, the U.S., and the ROK have firmly coordinated policies until now, so we will act steadily based on that.
Reporter: The Government of Japan has been describing North Korea’s verbal expression of a forward-looking attitude as a “charm offensive.” Is it correct to understand that it is no longer a charm offensive?
Minister Kono: At the present point, we do not know anything. We will evaluate the situation based on whether or not concrete action is taken, and have no intention to give anything for mere words that anyone can say.
Reporter: The Government of Japan has always stated that dialogue for the sake of dialogue is meaningless. Is it not true that this U.S.-North Korea meeting will just be dialogue for the sake of dialogue?
Minister Kono: I believe this is dialogue for the sake of encouraging action toward concrete denuclearization, so whether or not this can be realized is the important aspect. The international community will firmly monitor this.
Reporter: Isn’t this dialogue without denuclearization as a prerequisite? Or do you think this is dialogue toward denuclearization?
Minister Kono: Doing this has no meaning unless it is dialogue toward denuclearization. If there is a judgment that North Korea is only making idle promises with words about denuclearization, accordingly the dialogue will be stopped.
Reporter: Is there still no collateral to ensure that North Korea is not only making idle promises?
Minister Kono: Unless there are indications of action, we will have no way of acknowledging anything. North Korea will gain nothing unless action accompanies their words.
Reporter: If dialogue begins between the United States and North Korea under a bilateral framework, I think that the United States will negotiate to maximize its own interests. Are there concerns that this could mean that the abductions issue, the issue of utmost priority for Japan, will be left behind?
Minister Kono: I believe that this is not a bilateral framework between the United States and North Korea, but rather the United States representing the international community in a discussion with North Korea.